The Argentine government declared two national days of mourning Wednesday following a warehouse fire in the southern section of Buenos Aires that left nine emergency services workers dead and seven others seriously injured, officials said.
Six members of the Federal Police’s firefighting unit, two emergency management office workers and a volunteer firefighter died in the blaze, Security Secretary Sergio Berni said.
The firefighters were killed when a section of the warehouse in the Barracas neighborhood collapsed as they started trying to put out the fire.
President Cristina Fernandez declared two days of national mourning and cancelled the unveiling of a new national sports program.
“We want to express our shock and pain to the relatives of the victims,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said during a brief press conference.
Seven other first responders are hospitalized with serious injuries and one of them, a firefighter, is listed in critical condition.
“We have received seven patients, of whom three have died, two males and one female. Another was sent to Churruca (Hospital), two have been released and one underwent surgery and is receiving intensive therapy,” the director of Argerich Hospital said.
The fire was reported around 9:00 a.m. at an old building used as a documents warehouse.
The blaze caused four sections of the structure to collapse, trapping the firefighters.
“Barracas is really torn up today because losing five or six firefighters, or whatever number it is, it really upsets you a lot,” resident Juan Carlos Giles told Efe.
One of the building’s walls fell on the “around 15 people who were working there,” Giles said.
The warehouse was operated by U.S.-based Iron Mountain, a documents and data management company.
“It was a warehouse for documents from banks and important companies. They had an excellent fire control system, so it is being investigated. The justice system will determine what caused the fire. We have to see if the system was working correctly,” Berni said.
“This is a tragic event, and we are deeply saddened by the deaths of the brave first responders who rushed to save our facility. Our thoughts are also with those who have been hospitalized, and we wish them a quick and complete recovery,” Boston-based Iron Mountain said in a statement.
No Iron Mountain employees were hurt and none of the adjacent buildings were damaged.
“We will investigate the cause of the fire and work closely with local investigators, police and fire authorities to understand what happened. The building was equipped with both fire-detection as well as a sprinkler system,” the company said.